Monday, February 27, 2017

Julietta's Blog: Interview with the Pippi Longstocking Stage Manager

Here's a few words from our Jr. Blogger, Julietta, about her experience watching Pippi Longstocking and an interview with Stage Manager Kat Pruyn!

I loved the Pippi Longstocking play! It is about a girl named Pippi who lives by herself in a house she calls 'Ville Villekula'. She is very strong and smart, but you wouldn't expect it! Her dad is a pirate that got lost in the sea, and her mother is in heaven. I really liked the part where Pippi hears about school, but doesn't want to go, until she hears about summer vacation! 

Pippi is very, very, silly, funny, crazy and everything in between!

I read the book Pippi Longstocking when I was little, and from what I remember, the play was exactly like the book! The actors really brought the book to life, and one of the great things was Pippi's monkey and horse. The horse was a hobby-horse that can move it's head, and the monkey was a puppet. Pippi came on stage riding her horse and then showed off her monkey.

So, if there aren't actors playing the animals, who does the sound effects for them? After the show, I got to interview the stage manager, Kat Pruyn who does exactly that.

As a stage manager, Kat does a lot of things, like make sure everyone shows up on time, and during the show, she controls the music changes and sound effects on the computer. 
She says it can be challenging being a stage manager, but it is really fun.
She loved the show because she is a big fan of the book. She read the book in elementary school and again before the play. 
It is her first time being a stage manager, but she has been an assistant stage manager three times for James and the Giant Peach, 3 Little Birds, and Fancy Nancy

It took her five runs to get things right for this show, she likes to keep notes to help her remember. 
Some shows are harder than others, but is still fun. 
She has been an actor when she was little, but now she designs costumes and stage manages.

During the show it was very fun to watch her stage manage, as my seat was above where I could watch her and the show. She was very focused, and only looked away from the computer to wait for actor's signals and to look at her notes.

It was great getting to meet her and I can't wait to see my next play so I can watch the stage manager more to see them in other plays!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A Playwright's Perspective: Min and Sharky

Here's a post from Min Kahng,  creative mind behind Story Explorers, our new show designed for children with disabilities.

Story Explorers: Meet Sharky, the Story Shark!

Bay Area Childrens Theatre
Sharky and actor Austin Zumbro

First, Sharky is a sort of buffer between the children and actors, in case the human-to-human interaction proves undesirable.

One element of Story Explorers we are really excited about is Sharky, the Story Shark! Sharky is a soft, friendly puppet who serves many different functions in the show. First, Sharky is a sort of buffer between the children and actors, in case the human-to-human interaction proves undesirable. Sharky straddles that line between person and object, which can be more inviting for a child with autism. He was intentionally constructed with a singular facial expression, so there would be no need to read emotional or social cues. 

If a kid is feeling uncertain about a moment in the show - say, playing with clay - they might look over and notice that Sharky seems OK touching the clay and decide they will as well. 

Sharky also verbalizes in a nonsense "shark language," sending the signal that in our theatre space, everyone can communicate in their own way, without needing to follow the norms of verbal language.
Every interactive element in the show is offered to Sharky as well as the kids, turning the puppet into a sort of example or guinea pig. If a kid is feeling uncertain about a moment in the show - say, playing with clay - they might look over and notice that Sharky seems OK touching the clay and decide they will as well. Sharky is also very huggable and pettable. Lots of kids enjoyed interacting with Sharky in our classroom visits. In a few classes, they also immediately called out his name "Sharky!" when they saw him enter the room - which made me think I named him well.

For more info on Story Explorers, check out our website.  For more on Min's artistic endeavors, check out his website! 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Splish Splash: An Actor's Perspective

This guest post comes from actor, Andrew Mondello, about the amazing experiences he has working on Theatre for the Very Young production, Splish Splash.

Splish Splash is one of the best places here in the Bay Area you can be. It will open your mind and heart to explore even the simplest aspects of life that we often overlook and forget to be grateful for. 

My very first thought after I first auditioned for BACT’s theatre for the very young show Splish Splash last August was “This is totally nuts, and I’m not sure I understand what is going on – But I know I have to be a part of it.” And luckily, just a few weeks later I got to be! 

 What is it that makes theatre for the very young so different from a normal children’s theatre production? Well the easy answer is BABIES, and as someone who is totally unashamed to go into full Dad mode and guffaw over how unequivocally adorable babies are – it’s a dream. But more than that, it’s the experience within the show. A typical children’s theatre production (not TVY) exists within the same realm as any professional production – there is the show happening on stage and the audience watching with a ‘fourth wall’ in between them - much like my previous show with BACT Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. Or from time to time, more often in children’s theatre, there is some level of audience interaction, such as my last-last BACT show Lemony Snicket’s: The Lump of Coal where the audience was often invited to come on stage and be a part of the show. 

Everything anyone in the audience says or does in the spur of the moment could instantly become a “main event” in the show.

Well Splish Splash takes that to the next level. The audience IS the show, the whole room IS the stage, and ALL of us there are living, breathing, and performing together. It. Is. Incredible. Everything anyone in the audience says or does in the spur of the moment could instantly become a “main event” in the show. Which as a clown trained to be aware of and use all stimuli coming at me at all times, makes this work extremely exciting and fulfilling to do. 
 All this comes from the idea that within the room no one can do any wrong. It’s a place for kids (and honestly, parents too) to get the chance to explore, unhinged. Of course, this is an idea that many parents have to ease into. When your child is the first one to stand up and make themselves a part of the show your natural incliniation is to worry and immediately tell them to sit down. But fear not! Because the cast will immediately lay away your fears with a chorus of “its totally fine, we love this! Please let them go ahead and stand up and dance, that’s great!” 

It’s a place for kids (and honestly, parents too) to get the chance to explore, unhinged.

 Once we've all agreed on these parameters (or really lack thereof ^.–)) any number of wondrous things can happen. From a little two year old running up and sitting in my lap mid-show while I was telling a story (one of the cutest things I have ever personally experienced to date – and one of my favorite show memories) to one child coming up to hug the giant puppet octoupus. Only to inspire another, only to inspire the entire room to get in a line to hug the octopus. You would never guess that so many different things could happen in the span of a 30 minute show. But they do, and that’s how we know we are doing our job right. It means every child is getting a chance to explore in the way THEY want to. 

You would never guess that so many different things could happen in the span of a 30 minute show. But they do, and that’s how we know we are doing our job right.

 The wonder of it is, that as actors we learn to explore just as much as the audience does, while keeping a show fresh every time, 5 shows a week. The saying is “you get what you give”. Well, with toddlers that is tenfold, because if you are not giving 110% then you will quickly find the audience is not exploring with you on the journey. As a professional actor – both these lessons are invaluable. Any actor who doesn’t admit that staying in the moment and reacting genuinely to every stimulus coming at them or keeping a show fresh and new every time after 60 performances isn’t a challenge, or wasn’t at some point, is lying. In school you are taught tools to tackle both these challenges but rarely ever given the opportunity to. Simply because school shows rarely run for longer than a week or two. With this show I’ve been able to put those skills to work and actually been able to have those muscles working to keep the show spontaneous and fresh every time. It’s truly been an invaluable experience and has made me feel better about all the work I do as a performer.

 So, whether you are an actor performing in it, a parent nervous about bringing your child to their first show, a seasoned children’s theatre-goer, a wily-coyote kid, or the shy and quiet type – Splish Splash is one of the best places here in the Bay Area you can be. It will open your mind and heart to explore even the simplest aspects of life that we often overlook and forget to be grateful for. 

From the sound of chime, 
and your favorite lullaby rhyme. 
To the gleeful squeel and smile of a child 
Exploring the seas and the ocean wild.
From a simple rub a dub
With your kid in the tub.
To a very rainy day 
While Mom and Dad are away.
From finding pictures in a cloudy sky
Making up stories as the time flies by
Down to the the simpliest little
Teeniest Tiniest
Wittle Bittle.
Water Drop.

Thanks for sharing, Andrew! Splish Splash is now playing in SF. Tickets at

Friday, February 3, 2017

Kara's Blog: Pippi Longstocking, the Beloved Stories Come to Life

Here's a word from our Jr. Blogger, Kara, about the differences between Pippi on the page and Pippi onstage. 

Kara and her sisters show off their Pippi posters outside of Freight and Salvage.

Every BACT show I watch has a different thing that makes it special. For this

show it was bright, cheerful and surprisingly strong Pippi. The BACT play Pippi

Longstocking is based on the stories in the Pippi Longstocking books by Astrid

Lindgren, which were first published in Sweden, in 1945. In comparison to the

books the play has the same great stories with the addition of lively songs, fun props

and exciting staging.

The story is about Pippi, a girl whose mom is gone and her dad

is a pirate lost at sea, so she lives all by herself with a pet horse and a monkey. She

is very silly and has red hair. She also wears mismatched stockings and a patched

blue dress. Next door are two kids named Annika and Tommy. They play with Pippi

and go on fun adventures with her. I really liked watching the book come to life as a

play. My favorite part of the play was when Pippi goes to a carnival and sees a

circus. During the circus the Ringmaster challenges someone to wrestle the strong

man and if they win he will give them a bag full of money. Pippi volunteers and then she wins!
Pippi challenges the strong man, and she wins!

My favorite characters were Pippi, Annika and Tommy. I like Tommy and

Annika because they are kind and they are very nice friends. If I ever met them I

would want to be their friend. I like Pippi because she is brave, clever, strong and

funny. She can get out of any situation and she is fun to be around. I really enjoyed

how the characters brought out their personalities. The actors who did this the best

were the robbers. The sneaky robbers had hysterical personalities.

Pippi and her pal Annika.

 I think Pippi Longstocking is a good play to watch with your family. It is funny, cheerful and the

perfect show to see.

Don't take Kara's word for it--see for yourself. Pippi plays through March 19th. Tickets at

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hats and Hot Cocoa: Fancy Nancy Holiday Tea

The only thing we at BACT love more than Fancy Nancy is drinking hot chocolate with her!  Last month, some very special fans and donors enjoyed a cup of hot cocoa and a behind the scenes talk with Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas creative team members costume designer, Amy Bobeda, and director, Hannah Dworkin.

Hannah presented the model box--a tiny version of the set, and explained the role of director, making comparisons to the responsibilities of a teacher managing a classroom.  She demonstrated how the scenes shift from store to living room, bedroom to neighbor's house.  Amy displayed several mood boards--a designer's tool for conveying mood, color, and fabric ideas, while explaining the challenges of buying costumes rather than buying clothes, especially for adults playing children.

Generously hosted by Revival Bar and Kitchen (which is family friendly and now open for brunch!), families enjoyed delicious treats, cocoa with extra marshmallows, and when they weren't snacking crafted fun foam wreathes to take home. 

After the presentation and "tea," guests were surprised by a special appearance by Fancy Nancy herself!  They struck their fanciest poses while comparing boas, tiaras, and fascinators--a fancy word for "tiny hat."

Thanks to all those fancy and fabulous guests who came out for what we're hoping is our first annual Fancy Nancy Tea Party, and to our friends at Revial Bar and Kitchen for the scrumptious treats!

If you're interested in future special events, make sure to subscribe to our mailing list, and follow us on social media!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wheels on the Bus: An Actor's Perspective

Here's a post from Salim Razawi a familiar face from BACT shows like Five Little Monkeys, Rickshaw Girl, and our school tour on safety, Rock the Block.  Salim is an East Bay TYA educator and director, but Wheels on the Bus is his first production for the very young. Here he is to help us understand the value of theatre for the very young. 
Salim Razawi

When I was asked to be a part of Wheels on the Bus I can honestly say I was a bit hesitant. Although I do a lot of TYA, I had no prior experience in theatre for the very young and it was a nerve-wracking gig, but it has been an absolute pleasure. 
Wheels on the Bus Theatre for the Very Young

Wheels on the Bus takes the audience on an imaginary bus for an interactive journey that examines all manners of things that go around.

Theatre for the Very Young Wheels on the Bus

 As the bus driver, I invite the kids to patriciate in the show in whatever way they seem fit and they truly take this to heart. One pivotal point in the show is when the bus breaks down, as the driver I look inside and see giant gears that have stopped working, so we bring mini versions of the gears to the kids and ask them if they could help us make them go around. There are many interactive points in the show and sometimes we invite the kids to join us on stage to be an airplane with us, or help us put some round toppings on the pizza we are making. 

During one of my favorite performances, we invited all the kids to come up and dance like airplanes with us. 

In a sold-out house of 45 patrons only one little girl came up, but she took center stage and owned her airplane. 

Having this kind of interaction does come with its challenges, sometime a child or two may wander backstage or take the prop that we are about to use, but rather than reprimanding or saying no to them we invite them and ask them questions about said props. One time a child saw our sound system with volume control knobs, so, during a very loud bus traveling sound cue, he decided he wanted to see how those knobs worked and turned the volume on blast!  Luckily, I was able to adjust the sound quickly on my handy-dandy iPod that I keep on my arm throughout the show. 

This kind of kinetic learning is a huge part of why TVYA matter. 

I believe this work is so important, has great cognitive benefits for the developing and curious minds, and is so engaging and mesmerizing for the very young. I am one happy bus driver!

Thanks Salim, for sharing your thoughts, and for driving that school bus--forty toddlers can't be easy!

There are still some seats available for our season of Theatre for the Very Young, get them before they are gone! 

Here are some other great articles on the importance of Theatre for the Very Young:

Children's Fairyland: Theatre for the Very Young

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Pippi Longstocking: What is a Swedish Coffee Party?

A wonderful scene in the musical, Pippi Longstocking, and a cornerstone in Swedish culture, the coffee party is a foreign concept to Americans. 

Pippi Longstocking Coffee Party

What is a coffee party?

Unlike the multitude of tea parties featuring outfits from the dress up box and American Girl doll or teddy bear guests, the coffee party offers the Swedish alternative to the art of enjoying a beverage with friends.

Often called a Fika, coffee parties are a coffee break that involves drinking coffee, tea, or juice and eating some sort of sweet treat like a cinnamon roll or open faced sandwich.  There are often two fikas taken in a work day, giving employees the chance to catch up with each other over a beverage and snack.  Sweden mandates employees receive two fika breaks a day, and unlike American coffee breaks, employees won't be found glued to their phones or laptops--these breaks are purely for socializing.

Coffee Party

Similarly to American customs, a fika can also serve as a casual date.  Fikas can be held in homes or cafes.  There are even fika specials on train cars for those traveling in Sweden!  Clearly they take their coffee breaks very seriously.

The word fika is both an noun and a verb in Swedish.  You can drink fika, as well as be asked to fika with a coworker!

Unlike the American desire to consume caffeine as quickly as possible with drive through Starbucks and double shot espresso in a can, fika is less about indulging in caffeinated beverages and sugary snacks, and more about taking time for yourself, twice a day to slow down, take a break, and enjoy the little pleasures of living.  Fika is the perfect excuse to reconnect with yourself and others.

Thinking of incorporating fika into your life? Here are some amazing recipes for fika treats. 

Want to read even more about fika? Here's the book for you!

And don't forget to see a coffee party in action this spring! Pippi runs January 21-March 19.  Click for tickets.